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The old fashioned way


Stereolabels: Form labels inside inputs with Prototype

stereolabels crawls the DOM for labels with the specified class name (default is ‘inside’) and places the label text inside the input field, and adds the class name to the input element. Upon clicking the field, the label is removed and the class name is removed from the input element. If the field is left blank when it loses focus, the label returns. This behavior is only applied to text, textarea, and password input fields.

This script is an update on Labels.js by aaron boodman at


// stereolabels.js v1.0, 2007-08-15
// Copyright (c) 2007 Stereo :: Interactive & Design (
// Author: Scott Meves 
// Based on:
//  labels.js by aaron boodman ||
// stereotabs.js freely distributable under the terms of an MIT-style license.

var stereolabels = Class.create();

stereolabels.prototype = {
  labels: [],

  initialize: function(options) {
    this.options = Object.extend({
			className : 'inside'
		}, options || {});
    this.labels = $$('label.'+this.options.className);
    $A(this.labels).each(function(label) {
    $A(document.forms).each(function(form) {
      Event.observe(form, "submit", function() { this.uninit() }.bind(this))

  // called on form submit
  // - clear all labels so they don't accidentally get submitted to the server
  uninit: function() {
    $A(this.labels).each(function(label) {
      var el = $(label.htmlFor);
      if (el && el.value == el._labeltext) this.hide(el)
  // initialize a single label.
  // - only applicable to textarea and input[text] and input[password]
  // - arrange for label_focused and label_blurred to be called for focus and blur
  // - show the initial label
  // - for other element types, show the default label
  initLabel: function(label) {
  	try {
  		var input     = $(label.htmlFor);
  		var inputTag  = input.tagName.toLowerCase();
  		var inputType = input.type;
  		if (inputTag == "textarea" || (inputType == "text" || inputType == "password")) {
  		  Element.setStyle(label, { position: 'absolute', visibility: 'hidden'});
  			Object.extend(input, {
  		    _labeltext: label.childNodes[0].nodeValue,
  		    _type: inputType
  			Event.observe(input, 'focus', this.focused.bind(this));
  			Event.observe(input, 'blur', this.blurred.bind(this));
  		} else {
  		  Element.setStyle(label, { position: 'static', visibility: 'visible' });
  	catch (e) { 
  	  Element.setStyle(label, { position: 'static', visibility: 'visible' });
  focused: function(e) {
  	var el = Event.element(e);
  	if (el.value == el._labeltext) el = this.hide(el);

  blurred: function(e) {
    var el = Event.element(e);
  	if (el.value == "") el =;
  hide: function(el) {
  	if (el._type == "password") el = this.setInputType(el, "password");
  	el.value = "";
	  Element.removeClassName(el, this.options.className);
  	return el;

  show: function(el) {
  	if (el._type == "password") el = this.setInputType(el, "text");
  	Element.addClassName(el, this.options.className);
  	el.value = el._labeltext;
  	return el;
  setInputType: function (el, type) {
    try {
      el.type = type;
      return el;
    catch (e) { //IE can't set the type parameter
      var newEl = document.createElement("input");
      newEl.type = type;
  		for (prop in el) {
  			try {
  			  // crazy bug that still exists in ie 7 with width and heights, use class name if necessary instead!
   				if (prop != "type" && prop != "height" && prop != "width") { 
  				  newEl[prop] = el[prop];
  			catch(e) { }
  		Event.observe(newEl, 'focus', this.focused.bind(this));
			Event.observe(newEl, 'blur', this.blurred.bind(this));
  		el.parentNode.replaceChild(newEl, el);
  		return newEl;

Event.observe(window, 'load', stereolabelsInit, false);

var myLabels = null;
function stereolabelsInit() {
	myLabels = new stereolabels();

5 Responses to Stereolabels: Form labels inside inputs with Prototype

  1. Scott Meves says:

    The original Labels.js was released nearly 6 years ago in December 2001 by Aaron Boodman. The original site appears to be offline at the moment, but the demo is still working. There was also some discussion on Simon Willison’s blog in 2002.

  2. Pingback: links for 2007-09-06 | xanders blog

  3. Rob says:

    This is great, very nicely written too!

    I am currently trying to do the same thing using jQuery, although have run into problems with with stacking events (focus and blurs) especially with the password field. Also I am having to remove and add password inputs to the dom because I can’t change the type 🙁

    At least now I can fall back on your class if needed, however I am determined to write it myself, even if I use your solution for hits 🙂

  4. Scott Meves says:

    thanks rob! I’m glad you found this script and hopefully it will be useful to you. If you do manage to get it running with jquery, feel free to post a link here.

  5. jabbett says:

    This script works perfectly in Firefox 2/3, but I’m having a problem with IE7 on WinXP. The text in the label tags remains visible next to each form field, and the labels within the form fields don’t appear at first — they show up only after tabbing through them (or adding, then removing input).

    Snippet and screenshots here: